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DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

  H.B. Gelatt

Thursday, September 9, 2010, 10 am Pacific, 11 am Mt  Noon Central, 1 pm EST, 2 pm Atlantic, 7 pm Zurich, 8 pm Istanbul

 The Process of Illumination in a Nutshell

The Process of Illumination (POI) is a process of illuminating and expanding our collective worldview one worldview at a time. Since beliefs are the foundation of a worldview, I am promoting beliefs that are more open (receptive to change) and more  inclusive (comprehensive in scope).

My theme is the minute you make up your mind that the way you see things makes a difference, it will make a difference in the way you see things … and do things. My opinion, in a nutshell, is that the way we see things is the most important and most neglected factor in determining our future and the future of the planet.

My three assumptions:

  • The direction the world is currently heading is not where we want to go.
  • The way we see the problem IS the problem.
  • An expanded open and inclusive collective worldview is the solution.

Expand the way you see things in life.

H.B. Gelatt




For nearly 40 years H B Gelatt has been regarded as an expert in decision making. Most notably he is the creator of Positive Uncertainty, a philosophy of decision making in uncertain times. In 2001, H B and his wife, Carol Gelatt, co-founded Gelatt Partners to assist individuals and organizations change, grow and succeed. In 2003 they co-authored the 2nd edition of the popular decision-making book, Creative Decision Making Using Positive Uncertainty.

As he has throughout his career, H B devotes his time to writing books, articles and curriculum on his approach to decision making. He is a columnist for The Systems Thinking and Chaos Theory Newsletter. In addition, he is a frequent speaker to professional groups and organizations throughout the United States, Canada and Japan and consults with organizations on the design of educational programs to help individuals make effective decisions.

H B’s career encompasses a range of distinguished activities. He was Senior Research Scientist for the American Institutes for Research, Special Consultant and Trainer for the National and California Occupational Information Coordinating Committees, the College Board and the Kellogg Foundation Adult Learning Project. Earlier in his career, HB was Director of Guidance and the Professional Renewal Program for the Palo Alto School District.

Many honors have come H B's way recognizing his work in the fields of decision making and career development. The awards include the Lifetime Achievement in Career Development Award from the California Career Development Association, the Professional Resource Award from the Career Planning and Adult Development Network for outstanding service as a resource to the career development profession, the Clarion Model Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession from the California Association of Counseling and Development, and the Distinguished Professional Service Award from the Association of Counselor Educators and Supervisors.

His educational background includes doctoral and master’s degrees in counseling psychology from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Jose State University. There is much more to H B than his career and passion for decision making. The other loves of his life are his family and friends, tennis, hiking, music, spectator sports, his wisdom group activities and the continuous reinvention of H B.





DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Exercise 1: Metaphor as Method
H B Gelatt
Metaphors can generate new ways of thinking and believing; they require us to find and create meaning. Following is an exercise to help you illuminate and practice your metaphoric thinking. 

Four Future Metaphors

Adapted from Draper Kaufmann’s 1976 book, Teaching The Future.

Read the following four metaphors and decide which one comes closest to your belief about your influence over the direction of the future. It may not be exactly right, but it is better than the others.

1. Roller Coaster
The future is a great roller coaster. It twists ahead of us in the dark, although we can
only see each part as we come to it. We can sometimes see around the bend but the future is fixed and determined. We are locked in our seats and nothing we may know or do will change the course that is laid out for us.

2. Mighty River
The future is a mighty river. The great force of history flows along, carrying us with it. Its course can be changed but only by natural disasters, like earthquakes and landslides, or by massive concerted human efforts on a similar scale. However, we are free as individuals to adapt to the course of history, either well or poorly. By looking ahead, we can avoid whirlpools and pick the best path through any rapids.

3. Great Ocean
The future is a great ocean. There are many possible destinations, and many different paths to each destination. By taking advantage of the main currents of change, keeping a sharp lookout posted, and moving carefully in uncharted waters, a good navigator can get safely to the charted destination, barring a typhoon or other disaster that cannot be predicted or avoided.

4. Colossal Dice Game
The future is entirely random, a colossal dice game. Every second things happen that could have happened another way to produce another future. Since everything is chance, all we can do is play the game, pray to the gods of fortune and enjoy what good luck comes our way.

Which metaphor most closely resembles your future vision, Roller Coaster, Mighty River, Great Ocean, Colossal Dice Game?

Why did you choose your preferred metaphor? What did you like or not like about your choice or about the others? Discuss your answers with someone else, or with a group, for more illumination. If your choice is not an accurate indication of your view of your influence over the future, what is?  Next is your chance to create your own more accurate metaphor.

Your Personal Metaphor
What personal metaphor best describes your vision? You might use something familiar to you: a hobby, favorite thing, preferred activity, or an animal—anything. Don’t worry about being fancy or poetic.  If you have never thought of a metaphor for your life, think of this first personal metaphor as a practice metaphor. You can keep changing your metaphor or have different metaphors for different parts of your life or for different times.  

Once you identify your personal metaphor, ask yourself these illuminating questions:

  • How is your influence of the future or your life like this metaphor?
  • How is it not like this metaphor?
  • What feelings or emotions are associated with your metaphor?
  • What insights does this metaphor elicit?
  • Is this metaphor best for a certain part of your life?
  • Do you want to change your metaphor? If yes, what is your new metaphor?

Keep your personal metaphor, work with it, expand it, modify it, change it, or get several new ones. See if your metaphor can help you understand and expand the way you use your mind to influence the future.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Exercise 2: Belief Biases
H B Gelatt

In the 2006 book Why We Believe What We Believe, Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman list 27 ways our brain distorts reality. The Wikipedia encyclopedia list of cognitive biases includes 71 decision making and behavioral biases. I am selecting four from these two lists that are closely related to the basic theme of the Process of Illumination. (Direct quotes in italics).  

Review the following descriptions of these biases and discuss the questions with yourself.

  1. Perceptual Bias: Our brain automatically assumes that our perceptions and beliefs reflect objective truths about ourselves and the world. This leads to the old saying, “Seeing is believing.”

I have written repeatedly about the concept of “believing is seeing,” and the impossibility of “the objective observer.”  I believe this perceptual bias is in critical need of personal illumination. Do you sometimes automatically assume that what you see is what is?  How do you get off automatic?

2. Uncertainty Bias: Our brain does not like uncertainty and ambiguity; thus we prefer to believe or disbelieve, rather than remain uncertain.

My Positive Uncertainty decision making “philosophy” is designed to overcome this uncertainty bias.  Being comfortable with uncertainty is essential for the kind of worldview I am promoting (See The Certainty of Uncertainty). Do you sometimes prefer not to be uncertain?  How do you try to manage your uncertainty?

3. Bandwagon Bias: This reflects our tendency to go along with the belief systems of whatever group we are involved with. The more people we are surrounded by, the more likely we’ll be to modify our beliefs to fit theirs.

Cultural indoctrination, religious doctrine, family teachings, group think and other belief systems we are exposed to often determine what we believe. I suggest we illuminate where they came from and then decide what we choose to believe. Do you sometimes go along with your group’s belief system? How do you justify a contrary position?

4. Self-Serving Bias: A tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way beneficial to their own interests.

The tendency to acquire and maintain beliefs that benefit our own interest and goals is widespread and clearly does not promote achieving an open and inclusive worldview --- unless that is our self-interest and goal. To me this illustrates the potential power of the Process of Illumination. Do you sometimes interpret information to fit your own interests? How do you try to avoid self-deception?

5. Blind-Spot Bias

Most people fail to recognize how many cognitive biases they actually have, or how often they fall prey to these biases.

Try to identify several cognitive belief biases you may have and how you fell prey to them.  
Beliefs are often personal biases that contribute to your worldview.
The purpose of the POI is to illuminate and clarify your personal belief biases.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Exercise 3: Promoting Open-Mindedness
H B Gelatt

Following is an exercise to help illuminate the use of your mind and your capacity for open-mindedness.  

A Thinking Test
Answer yes or no.
_____ 1. Have you ever had thoughts that were not totally rational?

_____ 2. Have you ever had unrealistic fantasies about the future?

_____ 3. Have you ever made up your mind and then changed it?

_____ 4.  Have you ever said “I don’t know” out loud?

_____ 5. Have you ever been taught any of these skills in school?

I have asked these questions enough to know that most people answer “yes” to the first four questions and no” to the last. I did; did you?  I believe the skills identified are an essential part of being open-minded. You have them even though you weren’t taught. Do you use them?  Sometimes?  Frequently?

I like these five questions because they represent the thinking skills that expand the capacity of your mind, increase your ability to make creative decisions and promote the use of both sides of your brain. They contribute to more open-minded thinking.   For example:

1. Having thoughts that are not totally rational involves intuition, which by definition is “the act of knowing without the use of rational processes,” Intuition, creativity, imagination, visionary thinking, flexibility, adaptability and not-knowing are all part of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), popularized by Daniel Goleman. The popularity of emotional intelligence suggests that the non-rational is catching on.
Q How do you assess your non-rational thinking?   
2. Having unrealistic fantasies about the future is also receiving more respect with the general public. The concept of “positive illusions,” first introduced by Shelley Taylor, identified “unrealistic optimism for the future” as an unrealistic yet adaptive misconception of mentally healthy people. Being optimistic about your role in determining the future is likely to lead to proactive behavior. Optimism, like emotional intelligence, is now featured in professional and popular literature (e.g. positive psychology).
Q. How do you assess your ability to have unrealistic fantasies about the future?

3. Being able and willing to change your mind is another skill that will be an asset in a rapidly changing future. However, we normally try to avoid it. “Given the choice between changing one’s mind and proving it is not necessary, most people get busy on the proof. John Gailbrath
Q. How do you assess your ability and willingness to change your mind?  

4. Saying “I don’t know” out loud and changing your mind actually isn’t good for you if you are running for political office in the United States. We don’t want to elect a leader who is indecisive or someone who says I don’t know.  So those of you who answered these questions the way I predicted, you shouldn’t run for political office. But otherwise, take advantage of your malleable mind. “Our heads are round so thoughts can change direction,” Francis Picabia.

5. Changing our minds and saying I don’t know is necessary if we want to learn, grow, develop and keep up-to-date. Because…“We must continually unlearn much of what we have learned, and learn to learn what we have not been taught.”  R D Laing
Q. How do you assess your willingness and capacity to say “I don’t know?”  

What we have learned may no longer be true. And what we have not been taught might be worth learning. I believe we all posses the world’s finest multi-sensory learning devise right behind our eyes (our minds). All we have to do is believe it and use all of it fully and creatively.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Opening Instructions for Listeners

Before we begin, here are a few instructions for listeners:

  • If you have a question, press 5* on your phone.
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  • If you'd like to listen to more of these tele-interviews, and your organization is not currently a subscriber, contact me with someone I can talk with about subscribing your organization so you can listen for free (except for the cost of your distance provider). Email info@ careerwell.org or call 415.312.4294.
For nearly 40 years H.B. Gelatt has been regarded as an expert in decision making. Most notably he is the creator of Positive Uncertainty, a philosophy of decision making in uncertain times. Most recently, he has created the Process of Illumination, which he shall talk about today and for which he provides three exercises on his Careerwell Web Page. HB has earned numerous awards and is a frequent speaker to professional groups and organizations throughout the United States, Canada and Japan and consults with organizations on the design of educational programs to help individuals make effective decisions. A career practitioner recently noted that I interview many theorists. In the next hour we shall find out how H.B.'s Positive Uncertainty Theory and his Process of Illumination can be applied in day-to-day situations.  Welcome H.B. Gelatt!



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Interview Questions


  1. You said in your topic summary that the way we see things is one of the most important and the most neglected factor in determining our future and the future of the planet.  Do you really mean that the way we see things is more important than the state of the economy, natural and man-made disasters, and politics in determining our future and the future of the planet? What do you mean by the process of illumnation?
  2. The first exercise that I posted on your Careerwell Web Page is on creating metaphors. In the first part of the exercise, I could relate most to the Great Ocean and Colossol Dice Game. In navigating the Great Ocean, I don't always get safely to the charted destination, due to unexpected circumstances. I identified somewhat with the Colossol Dice Game.  Does this metaphor relate to your theory of Positive Uncertainty?  If so, how?
  3. I wonder if any listeners would like to share a personal metaphor, based on the questions that HB asked in the second part of the first metaphor exercise?  If so, press 5* on your phone. 
  4. Does anyone know of a company that whose mission is a metaphor? Why is metaphor effective?
  5. Would you suggest using this metaphor in your personal or organization's branding or that clients use this in their elevator speech or their personal branding?  How might the metaphor need to be adapted for branding?
  6. In your second exercise, you talk about how the mind distorts reality.  How does the mind distort reality?  Could you give an example?
  7. Could you describe and explain the four categories of personal bias that you listed? What does the Process of Illumination (POI) and how does it illuminate and clarify your personal belief biases?
  8. In your third exercise, you talk about promoting open-mindedness.  What would you suggest as a way to assess the following factors related to oneself:  non-rational thinking, ability to have unrealistic fantasies about the future, ability and willingness to change your mind, willingness and capacity to say "I don't know?"
  9. What is the difference between chaos theory and postive uncertainty?
  10. How does positive uncertainty relate to positive psychology?
  11. What do you see as the benefits of being comfortable with uncertainty?
  12. How have you applied positive uncertainty in your own life and work?
  13. How can we learn more about positive uncertainty and the process of illumination?


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


HB, Thanks for explaining your Positive Uncertainty Theory and Process of Illumination.  Yet, I am hungry for more, so will look forward to exploring your website.  Thank you for illuminating us today.


Next week, on 9/16, we listen to Charles Waldrop talk about Starting a Successful Ex-Offender Entrepreneur Program.  Be sure to view his Careerwell Web page, filled with lesson plans and great resources. On 9/23, inspirational Carmen Croonquest  discusses Positive Psychology: Yes Your Way to Good Career Decisions, and on 9/30,  Jim Sampson shares How to Plan and Implement a Career Services Program.  Until next week, this is Dr. Sally Gelardin with Careerwell Tele-Interviews.

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Listener Metaphors

As a private pilot, flying is a natural personal metaphor.  I can determine my destination – but it does have to fall within practical parameters (airport with a paved runway, within my fuel range, near the services or sites am seeking, where weather will allow).  To be successful, I have to make sure the flight is within my skill level (and my airplane’s capabilities).  I also have to do ample planning, including contingency planning.  I have to work with others (weather briefers, other aircraft pilots, ATC, tower/ground controllers) to ensure everyone gets what they need or where they are going.  Sometimes the weather changes and it gets bumpy, or there are other unexpected situations that require flexibility, even a course reversal or change of course.  Other times, I can get off course (for a number of reasons) and need to correct.  The more resources I use, the better my chances of getting where I’m going…and if I don’t get there, I know I’ll end up somewhere where I’ll find interesting people, things to see, and some assistance, ideas, or direction that will head me in my general direction again.
Thanks for letting me share,
Cheryl Lynn

Garden analogy

The seeds are your natural strengths, the soil is your values, and the
weather is the opportunities and challenges from your environment. I use
four vegetables for the four basic temperament styles. The strength that is
most natural to you grows easily with little effort unless your soil is
lacking or you have extreme challenges in your environment. You can enrich
your beliefs and challenge your values by amending the soil with other
vegetables. Add a little of each of the four strengths to your garden soil
to nurture your seeds and build resilience against rough weather.
From “Color Your Style with Vegetables@2005”
Nancy Miller, M.S., CCM

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.